Homecoming at Iowa State
Quarterback John Quinn passing the ball at the 1980 Homecoming football game against Kansas State University. Iowa State beat Kansas State with a final score of 31-7.
Homecoming has been an annual tradition at Iowa State since 1912, when Samuel Beyer, sometimes known as the "patron saint" of athletics at Iowa State, suggested the idea. Other colleges and universities had started a "homecoming" tradition only a few years earlier, around 1908. Iowa State participated in homecoming celebrations very soon after these early beginnings, inviting alumni home to their alma mater for a fall football game. That first homecoming game was against our fellow Iowa rival, the University of Iowa. Then as now, the Iowa game was usually a very well-attended game and therefore the organizers decided this would be the best game for that first Homecoming.
The first Homecoming celebration was a great success. Classes were cancelled on Friday afternoon and Saturday, students erected "Beat Iowa" signs, a debate was held Friday evening, and an alumni reception and luncheon was held on Saturday morning. Of course, the highlight of the weekend was the football game. Unfortunately, Iowa State lost that first homecoming game, but that didn't stop students and alumni from celebrating together for the rest of the day and into the evening.
Some of those original activities that took place at the first 1912 Homecoming have continued to this day, such as the lawn displays and the comraderie which ensues when alumni are able to come together for a special weekend, root for the Cyclones, and participate in all of the Homecoming activities and events. Barbeques, banquets, parades, float competitions, tailgate celebrations, picnics, Yell-Like-Hell, pep rallies, bonfires, reunions, and dances have all been a part of Homecoming celebrations and some still are.
The most notorious event to take place during Homecoming was the student riot following the 1953 upset of Missouri. Excited students marched on the Knoll demanding a holiday on Monday. When President James Hilton didn't appear, for he wasn't home, the students decided to blockade Lincoln Way. President Hilton refused them the holiday even though the crowd returned the following Sunday and Monday nights.
One tradition that is still with us today are the lawn displays. Above is one from 1949.
Over the years, Iowa State's Homecoming celebration has played host to many special guests. None, however, can top the special guest first introduced at the 1954 Homecoming game: Cy, Iowa State's mascot. The costume was made by the Collegiate Manufacturing Company of Ames and the name was supplied through a contest sponsored by the Pep Council. Wilma Beckman Ohlsen of Ames is credited with the winning entry.
Cy with the Homecoming Queen at his one year birthday, Homecoming 1955.
As of 2012, Homecoming is currently organized by the Homecoming Central Committee of the Student Alumni Leadership Council (SALC). Typical events during Homecoming include community service projects; spirit displays such as lawn displays, victory lane, and store front window paintings; sporting tournaments including basketball, volleyball, and soccer; and Yell Like Hell, which is a competition between student groups performing skits that include chants and cheers.
Please take some time to browse this exhibit on the history of Iowa State's Homecoming celebrations. The website is currently a work in progress, so please check back for the completed website by the end of September!